At Christmas we are drawn to reflect on our ‘home’

Every human heart yearns to belong, writes Sr Anne Ryan in the Christmas editorial of the Far East magazine.

At Christmastime we are drawn to reflect on our place of belonging, our ‘home’. This sense of being drawn to home may be part of our nature, our cultural heritage and also part of our love for and fascination with the Nativity. As we approach the festival of Christmas this year let us reflect on the awful reality of so many men, women and children in our country who are without a home.

In the second chapters of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke we read the story of how Jesus came to be born. In Luke, we are told that Joseph and Mary were away from their home because of the census and found themselves without a place to stay. This must have meant extra hardship for them and especially Mary as she went into labour and delivered her baby in unusual circumstances.

In Matthew, we read of the threat to the life of the child Jesus and of the family’s flight into Egypt. Two thousand years later this kind of threat goes on every day as huge numbers of people flee the horror of war, violence, extreme poverty, corruption, death threats and now climate change which destroys land and crops.

Daisy (not her real name) is a Nigerian woman who is seeking asylum here in Ireland. Her reasons for leaving home are due to violence which led to the death of two members of her immediate family.

Because of her status, Daisy is not entitled to avail of our Direct Provision Services. She has been homeless for three to four years and found herself with no place to stay last December.

For any one of us the threat of losing our home will cause extreme anxiety and worry. Daisy and those in her situation must live with this uncertainty and frustration every day. A sense of being lost characterises those who, like Daisy, must live on the margins and in the shadows of our society; this adds a huge burden of stress and desperation.

Every human heart yearns to belong; this yearning is deep and very basic. How many of us are prepared to depend totally on the generosity of friends for all our basic needs such as food, shelter, and money, safety and a place to belong. It is more than most of us would countenance, yet some of the most vulnerable persons among us have to depend on the help of friends and put up with being at the mercy of the often unscrupulous for the shelter and safety they need.

Yet in spite of all this hardship, Daisy is a hopeful, patient and resilient woman of faith. A good Muslim, she prays often and her gratitude for God’s ongoing help is real. She believes her prayer is heard even if the answer is not the one she wanted. Yet there is a strong sense of God’s providence and care in the small and ordinary support of friends in the midst of so much uncertainty

Sr Anne Ryan is a Columban Sister  based in Tallaght, Dublin.

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